Safety Tip: Insulated Mat Care and Maintenance

Insulating Mats Feb ,11 2019

Electrical Insulated mats are a key piece of safety equipment for electrical workers, yet the knowledge on how to care for them is quite limited. Here’s how to best look after your insulated mat to ensure it has a long life and avoid costly early replacement.

Before you even use a mat, here are some pre-start checks;

  • – test date current (within 6 months)
  • – cracking
  • – tears
  • – pin holes
  • – foreign objects

Storage of the mat is absolutely critical, and the most harm can be done, and the biggest shortening of the lifespan, from incorrect storage.

Things to avoid in storage;

  • – rolled up for long periods of time
  • – squashing to the point where folds or creases occur
  • – beneath other equipment, either heavy or with sharp edges
  • – heat sources
  • – direct sunlight
  • – artificial light

Unfortunately all of these are very common mistakes. The bags designed for carrying/transporting mats are used to store them, they are kept in vans or trucks that get searing hot on a Summer’s Day and so on. Whilst not always avoidable, at the very least these should be minimised.

Damage can also occur during use or maintenance. Be careful to avoid;

  • – sharp objects (dropped screws that are then stepped on are a regular culprit)
  • – chemicals, solvents and acid used for cleaning (use warm soapy water instead)

Always remember that no matter how close a visual inspection you conduct, and how well you look after your mat, rubber deteriorates over time and the only real way to check a mat is through an electrical test. Electrical testing should be completed by a certified lab, with test intervals not exceeding 6 months. More frequent testing is required for mats that are used frequently or in harsh conditions.

For more information please contact me via email – I will be only too happy to answer your questions.

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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT AS4836_2011 Oct ,24 2018


The overhaul of AS/NZS 4836:2011 has seen a variety of changes that have a significant impact on the entire electrical industry. The largest changes from a safety perspective, and in particular that of personal protection, come in the area of Arc Flash protection.

For many years, the biggest killer in the electrical industry was thought to be electrocution. Overseas research has proved this to not be the case, with burns from Arc Flash incidents proving to be responsible for far more deaths. The lessons learned have been heeded, and the new AS/NZS 4836:2011 contains many Arc Flash protection measures, a first for any Australian Standard.

Arc Flash may be a new topic here is Australia, but it has been well known overseas for almost 20 years. The Europeans and Americans both have standards specifically addressing the issue of Arc Flash. While such a standard being developed locally has been discussed in Australia, it appears to be on the back burner with no real sense of progress. The temporary solution has been to learn from the American Standard, and use the bare bones of it, and Arc Flash Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) knowledge in AS/NZS 4836:2011.

What is Arc Flash?

An arc flash or fault happens when electric current flows through air gaps between conductors – essentially, it is a short circuit. Arc flashes often occur when racking in a breaker, performing switching, Insulation failure, and accidents caused by touching a test probe to the wrong surface or slipped (non-insulated) tools. In its most basic form, an arc is made up of four elements; Thermal Energy (heat), Acoustical Energy (sound), Pressure Wave and Debris. Each of these elements can cause serious injury or death to a person.

How does AS/NZS 4836:2011 address it?

AS/NZS 4836:2011, for the first time, specifies Arc Flash PPE that must be used in certain situations. The Arc Flash PPE specified is of American Standards rating (NFPA 70-E). The American standard classifies garments by a rating known as cal/cm2. This is calories, per square centimeter. Calorie is a measure of energy (or heat), required to heat 1L of water by 1°C. As you can quickly work out, the higher a cal/cm2 rating a garment will have, the more heat and energy it can protect the wearer from. AS/NZS 4836:2011 specifies certain cal/cm2 (or simply ‘cal’) ratings certain pieces of PPE are now required to have. Quite obviously, higher risk tasks, require higher rating pieces of PPE.

What do you need to know?

The table below is based on table 9.1 from AS/NZS 4836:2011 and shows the new Arc Flash requirements for PPE in clear, easy to understand format. Products to suit all of the below requirements are readily available from reputable safety companies such as Volt Safety.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Requirements

to AS/NZS 4836:2011 Clarification

  • – Eye protection No metal, complying with AS/NZS1337 and selected in accordance with AS/NZS 1336. Heat resistant, no metal
  • – Face shield certified and tested to 10cam/cm2
  • – Arc Flash suit and hood certified and tested to 40cal/cm2
  • – Insulating gloves AS2225 or Equivalent, rated to appropriate voltage, air tested before use. IEC, ASTM and EN gloves acceptable
  • – Flame-resistant (FR) gloves Gloves made from leather or other non-      melting heat-resistance material complying with AS/NZS2161.4
  • – Protective Clothing Flame-resistant, full body clothing with no metal. Cotton not suitable. Must be FR rated and tested fabric.

NB: This table applies when working on, or near live-parts, as is discussed in the scope of the standard.

When do I need to implement these changes?

As soon as possible. The standard was released in May 2011, and while there is a period of lenience generally afforded to companies in complying with new standards, this one provide a massive leap in employee safety. Get them in the right gear as soon as possible. A burns ward is not a nice place.

– Andre Borell

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Cat 4 Lightweight Arc Flash Suit

news1 Jan ,31 2017

Volt safety has proudly released a new, industry-leading, Cat 4 Lightweight Arc Flash Suit!
Available in Hi-Vis Orange with Day/Night reflective stripes, the suit has been designed with the wearer in mind, and features the following:

  • Lightweight design that reduces fatigue and exhaustion
  • Rated to / complies with NFPA 70E, AS4836:2011, ASTM F2178 and ASTM F1506
  • Guaranteed zips and seams to maximise durability and worker safety.
  • Ergonomic fit allows fast donning, comfort and ease of use

The new suit is available in Navy Blue and Orange.

Download a spec sheet here: Volt Safety Cat 4 Suit

Watch a short teaser video here:

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Volt Safety: The Electrical Safety Experts

volt safety experts Jan ,30 2017

One of the main reasons Volt Safety was started, was to provide a better level of advice and service to you, when you have safety questions, queries and needs.

There are plenty of safety suppliers out there, supplying to our industry, but very few can offer sound technical advice in support of their products.

Many can supply arc flash clothing, insulated gloves, LV rescue kits, proximity detectors; but very few can give accurate and reliable guidance, advice, and support when you aren’t totally sure what the requirement is, and what you actually need.

That is why Volt Safety exists.

We have a dedicated technical support team that knows the in’s and out’s, not only of our great product range, but also the ten’s (or hundred’s) of regulations, standards, acts and codes that govern our industry.

So next time you need safety equipment and want industry leading advice and service, contact Volt Safety!

Australia: Alex Loew, (07) 3282 0647,
electrical safety, safety equipment, safety experts

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HARNESS-RWKIT-Web-600x600-600x439 Jan ,30 2017

A great, recent post from our friends at Mobile Test ‘n’ Cal:

At Mobile Test ‘n’ Cal, we have had more than one query regarding the use of Sharpie permanent marker pens on height safety equipment and whether or not it is detrimental to the equipment.

To put some of these queries at ease, we are happy to say it has been proven that it is in fact NOT harmful in any way to your equipment. The following article by Mike Gelsky from Lift-It explores this in depth;


September 19, 2012 by Mike Gelskey

The effect of active chemical exposure on synthetics is an important consideration for responsible sling users, safety and training professionals. Many aspects must be considered. Time, temperature and concentration are primary considerations, but certainly not the only factors.

For many years we have relied upon yarn engineers at various webbing mills where synthetic materials are made into webbing products for their opinions on application or suitability. The problem with those opinions is that they generally DO NOT take into account the cumulative effect of multiple chemicals and/or unique environmental factors. We also surveyed more than one mill to determine if all responses would be similar.

Beyond chemical compatibility, other factors must also be considered. An example would be if certain chemical agents are exposed to moisture or UV light resulting in degradation that would not be realized in dry or dark applications.

For these reasons we have always encouraged sling users to work with their suppliers and ultimately their manufacturers to determine the effects of exposure in real world settings with adequate controls to validate results through the scientific method.

There is new vigor in the concern for the effects of marking pen ink commonly used in the fabrication of synthetic products and sling safety.

Years ago we presented our prime supplier at the time, Murdock Webbing with the MSDS for Sharpie Markers and their analysis revealed that nothing in the ingredients would be harmful to either nylon or polyester materials.

Most recently at a Canadian Crane and Safety Conference, the issue was raised again when information from a marker manufacturer stated that Xylene could be harmful to synthetic materials.

We contacted Avery Dennison, manufacturer of Marks-A-Lot markers and Newell- Rubbermaid, manufacturer of Sharpie markers and requested their assessment of the chemical effects of the marker ink ingredients on synthetic webbing. Given today’s global economy we attempted obtaining this information from phone contacts in foreign countries and given the litigious society we did not receive expedient responses. To date, the only response we have received is from Avery Dennison. Their representative stated Xylene was not an ingredient in their product and cited the legal jargon referencing the doctrines of implied and express warranties of merchantability and fitness.

We also contacted three webbing manufacturers to obtain their opinion by providing MSDS information for both markers. We also asked that the effects of UV exposure combined with all chemical ingredients be taken into account to determine if the interaction would be deleterious. A summary follows:

Webbing Mill No. 1
“Based on the information supplied to us by Kordsa, Nylon has excellent resistance to Xylene. Polyester on the other hand is not resistant to Xylene. As far as the effects by adding UV exposure, I could find no information. We would only need to worry about the added effects of UV on Nylon”.

(OK, Mr. Webbing Mill Manufacturer No. 1. You should purchase a copy of the WSTDA-UV study as UV degradation also affects polyester fibers!)

Webbing Mill No. 2
“I couldn’t find any data supporting the combination with UV rays but what I did find says that Xylene is not harmful to polyester but it is harmful to nylon. Nylon will lose 10-20% of its strength after 10 hours and at a temperature of 282 F in combination with Xylene. Hope this helps. Sounds like polyester is the best bet for the application and it should be better for UV as well”.

Follow up Question and reply for Web Mill No. 2:
Q: What was the concentration of the Xylene in your recommendation based upon?
A: “The concentration was 100% and this data was for yarn only. With a web being thicker, who knows?”

Webbing Mill No. 3
The quick answer is that as an organic solvent, Xylene is on the list of TOCs, so it is ‘harmful’ under certain circumstances. But it is a commonly used solvent, cleaning agent, etc. It is subject to photo-oxidation, with the production of by-products that are also chemically active. Polyester is not considered to be stable to Xylene even at 15C. So, if you had continuous contact with Xylene and polyester it would be an issue and would begin to break down the yarn in a short period of time. Polyamides (nylon) tend to have pretty good resistance to most aromatic hydrocarbon solvents at room temperatures so no issue there.

Sharpie markers causing problems due to Xylene content in the ink is the point of the question. I would not expect the use of such a marking pen on an organic polymeric material under normal temperatures/light exposure to cause degradation of the polymeric material due to the Xylene content in the ink. The Xylene will evaporate very quickly upon making a mark with the pen so there will be no degradation.

Most of this data is from the technical resource I use at Clemson’s textile school down the road from us. (Dr. Deborah Lickfield)

Webbing Mill 1 and 2 respond with conflicting information: Webbing Mill 1 claims Nylon would be better resistant to the effects of Xylene, while Webbing Mill 2 opines that polyester would be a better fiber. If you are confused at this point, you should be! There seems to be some agreement between Webbing Mill 1 and 3 relative to the superiority of nylon to polyester with respect to Xylene exposure.

Lift-It Manufacturing has used Marks-a-Lot and Sharpie markers for nearly 33 years and has had not experienced a single incidence of sling failure as a result of exposure to the ink ingredients in the aforementioned markers. We have pulled thousands of slings to destruction in both new and aged states (10-15 year old slings) and obtained satisfactory results.

In my involvement with Web Sling and Tie Down Association (WSTDA), I queried 50 manufacturers at the 30th Annual Meeting in Newport Rhode Island and no one had a single case to report relative to failure or incidence resulting from exposure of webbing to marker pen ink.

I would also stipulate that my comments are made STRICTLY from the context of synthetic slingsand DO NOT apply to marker pens used on fall prevention equipment, harnesses, etc.

My comments also DO NOT apply to ALL marker pens, just the two previously mentioned brands. Other markers may contain different ingredients and entirely different results.

From an assessment standpoint it would be impossible to determine the specific marker manufacturer and the specific ingredients if field personnel were marking products. If the marking is done to record inspection and testing there are far better ways to accomplish the objective: RFID, Inspection Loops, Non-Metallic Inspection Tags, etc.

Responsible users need to contact their manufacturers for their assessment to determine the effects of the specific ink used on synthetic products.

It was interesting to note that on the surface Xylene is a TOC (Toxic Organic Chemical), but that the evaporation process would need to be considered. It was also interesting to note that Mill No. 2 when queried replied that the analysis was based upon a 100% concentration and that Xylene penetration would be a function of material thickness and resultant degradation.

Based upon the information received from Webbing Mill No. 3, the testing done by Lift-it onunused, new and old slings, we can say that the ink used to mark slings manufactured by Lift-It does not degrade our synthetic slings.


Mike Gelskey, Sr.
Chief Executive Officer

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Deconstructing the Myths around Testing and Calibration

myth-busting Jan ,30 2017

As a leading supplier of safety equipment to the electrical industry, we play a big part in keeping the industry safe.

As such, we take it seriously when other parties provide misleading or dangerous advice to the industry. This seems to be happening in Queensland lately by the Electrical Safety Office (a government body).

Due to many queries that we’ve received, we feel it is our responsibility to deconstruct and correct the dangerous advice being provided by the ESO on their website (Volt editor comments in red).

A person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) paper writer who carries out electrical work must ensure the electrical safety of all persons and property likely to be affected by the electrical work.A PCBU must have procedures in place to ensure that tools, testing equipment and personal protective equipment are regularly inspected and tested.This requirement ensures that workers carrying out the work are electrically safe and that the work, when completed, is electrically safe. (Ed: correct up to this point)
Visual inspection
All tools, testing equipment and PPE should be visually inspected before each use for signs of damage.PCBUs should have ‘pre-start’ visual inspection procedures in place to ensure that equipment such as, tools, PPE, rubber mats and LV rescue kits are in good working order before use.

Testing equipment should be checked for damage to insulated leads and probes and needs to be confirmed as working before use.(Ed: correct, but would add that visual inspection will not find many faults or hazards that may be present)

Testing of equipment
Testing equipment should be tested regularly to ensure it provides the level of protection required. Testing intervals will depend on several factors including:

· the frequency of use

· the environment in which it is being

· manufacturer’s advice.

· (Ed: What about standards? Australian or International standards that cover safety equipment should be absolutely followed. Not doing so exposes you to safety and litigation risks)

For example, a multimeter used in a workshop environment may be subject to less damage that a multimeter carried in the back of a work van.

In absence of manufacturer’s advice PCBUs should refer to a competent person with the knowledge and skills required for testing the particular type of equipment.(Ed: this would be a certified testing or calibration technician)

Items that have been misused or damaged should not be used until they have been re-retested and confirmed as functioning correctly. (Ed: correct)

Test equipment used for measurements such as earth continuity and insulation resistance should be regularly tested to confirm they are working correctly.

Some equipment such as multimeters may be able to be tested in-house, by using a calibrated resistor test block. (Ed: absolutely incorrect, how can using a test block to check your resistance, show you any errors on other critical safety functions, specifically voltage or current?). Other equipment such as fault loop impedance testers or RCD testers may require specialist testing.


And here are some comments the ESO recently published in an newsletter to the entire industry (Volt editor comments in Bold Italics).

Before you do any electrical work, always check that your tools, test instruments and personal protective equipment (PPE) are safe to use. (Ed: correct up to this point)A simple visual check can identify any damaged insulation on tools such as pliers and screwdrivers, cuts or tears in insulating gloves or mats, or damaged meter leads. In addition, check that your test instruments are functioning properly, including multimeters and insulation resistance testers. (Ed: correct, however visual inspection will not find many faults or hazards that may be present) The Electrical Safety Regulation 2013 (PDF, 846 KB), section 22 requires that tools, testing equipment and PPE used for live work must be:· suitable for the work· properly tested
· maintained in good working order.

· (Ed: What about standards? Australian or International standards that cover safety equipment should absolutely be followed. Not doing so exposes you to safety and litigation risks)

There is no mandatory test interval and no compulsory way to inspect and test low voltage electrical equipment testing instruments. To determine the interval or methodology, take into account the instrument’s function, operating range, usage and accuracy requirements. (Ed: There is most definitely a compulsory way to inspect and test instruments. This is covered in an internationally accepted standard, ISO17025, which covers lab standards, test processes, required accuracies of test standards, record keeping requirements and much more. Spoiler alert, a test block doesn’t cut it)

Before you develop an inspection or test program, read the instrument supplier’s instructions or speak to the instrument’s manufacturer. (Ed: Totally agree. Volt Safety recommends 6 monthly testing and calibration on its products, which is industry best practice. If your instrument supplier or manufacturer doesn’t offer a suggested interval, 6 monthly testing and calibration should ideally be followed as industry best practice).


Volt safety believes the ESO’s advice ranges from somewhat misleading in parts, to factually incorrect and dangerous.

The bad news for you is that they have cleverly worded it in such a way that they will still be able to fine or prosecute you for not having testing and calibration done frequently enough.

By the ESO not stipulating a mandatory test interval, the legal onus will always fall on you for not having done it often enough, if anything goes wrong. The best way to protect yourself is to stick to industry best practice, 6 monthly testing and calibration at minimum.

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NEW PRODUCT ALERT: Lightweight LV and HV Insulated Mats

Mat-Image-copy-780x439 Jan ,30 2017

We now stock a brand new range of Volt Safety Insulated Mats and Blankets.
Our new IEC61111 standard range is ultra light weight and a lot easier to carry around onsite, yet still providing you with the appropriate protection. They are super flexible and have passed all of our ozone cracking tests. Available in a standard 1m x 1m format or custom length up to 10m long.
MAT-0 Class 0 1000V Insulated Mat IEC61111 3.0mm x 1m x 1m – Only 5kgs
MAT-0 Class 0 1000V Insulated Mat IEC61111 3.0mm x 1m x Custom Length (up to 10m)
MAT-2 Class 2 17kV Insulated Mat IEC61111 4.5mm x 1m x 1m – Only 5kgs
MAT-2 Class 2 17kV Insulated Mat IEC61111 4.5mm x 1m x Custom Length (up to 10m)
MAT-4 Class 4 36kV Insulated Mat IEC61111 6.5mm x 1m x 1m – Only 5kgs
MAT-4 Class 4 36kV Insulated Mat IEC61111 6.5mm x 1m x Custom Length (up to 10m)
Additionally, our new AS/NZ2978:1995 standard range Volt Safety mats are also super flexible and have passed all of the same ozone cracking tests. Available in a standard 1m x 1m format or custom length up to 10m long.
MAT-LV Class A 650V Insulated Mat AS/NZ 2978:1995 6.0mm x 1m x 1m
MAT-LV Class A 650V Insulated Mat AS/NZ 2978:1995 6.0mm x 1m x Custom Length (up to 10m)
Finally, the new ASTM D1048 standard Volt Safety Blankets ensure you are safe when working on overhead lines. They are super flexible and have passed all of our ozone cracking tests.
MAT-2-BLANKET Class 2 17kV Blanket ASTM D1048 4mm x 920mm x 920mm
MAT-4-BLANKET Class 4 36kV Blanket ASTM D1048 4mm x 920mm x 920mm
We highly recommend you protect your mats and blankets with one of our easy to roll, roll up Mat Bags. It will protect your mat or blanket against any sharp objects under foot whilst rolled out and in your vanor tray whilst rolled up.
MAT-BAG Roll Up Mat Bag

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NEW PRODUCT ALERT: HV Insulated Sticks and Proximity Testers

Hot-Stick-2-small Jan ,30 2017

We now stock a range of Volt Safety HV Insulated Telescopic Sticks and Proximity Testers.
Our sticks are triangular in shape providing extra stability. They are also marked with height marking for dual purpose use. Complete with Fuse Puller (Pigtail), Disconnect Hook and Protective Bag.
STICK2.5 Insulated Stick with Height Markings, Attachments and Bag
STICK8.0 Insulated Stick with Height Markings, Attachments and Bag
Our new Proximity Tester (Modiewark alternative) covers the most ranges of all testers on the market. This means you do not need to purchase two or more to cover additional ranges. Th self test button allows you to easily check the unit is working prior to use. Replacment handles are readily available if the universal attachment is damaged in use.
MET PROXI Volt Safety Proximity Tester 240V; 1kV; 3.3kV; 6.6kV; 11kV; 22kV; 33kV;66kV;132kV; 220kV.

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